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Editor’s Note: Brandon Brigman, a sports writer for the Daily Post, writes a blog every Monday called “The Blitz.” It is available online at www.gwinnettprepsports.com.
The Olympics have been over for a week now, which means I have had nothing to watch on TV recently.
Luckily, high school football is right around the corner. The Corky Kell Classic gets the season started on Saturday and Aug. 31 is the first games statewide.
It's been eight months since Grayson hoisted the state championship trophy. During that time, I've been pondering some questions. Some of them I think I have answers, others I do not. Here's what I'm wondering.
1. Can Grayson repeat as state champs?
The Rams return 10 of 11 on defense, so that side of the ball isn't a concern. I want to know how the Rams will be able to replace quarterback Nick Schuessler. That's the biggest concern to me. The Rams have plenty of linemen to replace four starters, but the big question mark is QB.
2. How will Buford bounce back from state title loss, adjust to Class AAA?
Buford had a rare loss in the state finals last season. The Wolves graduated a senior class filled with college football players. I think they have the players for another deep playoff run. I'm not sure yet, though, if this is a state championship caliber team. There's a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball. We should have a pretty good idea if this is a state title team soon. Three of Buford's first four games are against playoff teams. The final six games are against marginal teams.
3. Who will be the injury riddled team?
You can't really predict the answer to this question, but every year it happens. A playoff caliber team is desiccated by injuries. It happened to South Gwinnett last year, Peachtree Ridge the year before and Mill Creek three years ago.
It looks like the injury bug has hit Mill Creek again. The Hawks lost their starting quarterback in an intra-squad scrimmage and their running back in Friday's scrimmage.
4. Can North win a fourth straight region championship?
The Bulldogs have been the top team in Region 7 the last three years. I think it will be too tough to claim a fourth region title this year. The Bulldogs have to replace their quarterback and find a go-to guy at receiver. I think the defense will be strong as usual, but I don't know if the offense has enough firepower that it's had in the past.
5. Will Meadowcreek win a game?
The Mustangs are on a 38-game losing streak dating back to 2008. If the Mustangs are going to break that streak it needs to happen in the first two games against Shiloh and Berkmar. After that, trying to get a win in the tough Region 7 is unrealistic.
6. Can Parkview survive its schedule?
Parkview has the toughest schedule in the county, maybe the state this year. The Panthers' first six games are against playoff teams from last year. If the Panthers can somehow pull off a few wins, I like their chances for a playoff push.
7. Can Dacula recover from the graduation of 30-plus seniors?
Dacula relied on a big senior class to reach the state quarterfinals last year. It's virtually a new team this year, but the Falcons still have a nice crop of skill players. I think the Falcons will once again be a playoff threat.
8. Can Archer build off last year's success?
Archer reached the playoffs for the first time last year in its third year of existence. Can the Tigers build off that success or will they drop to the bottom of the region? The Tigers have a nice group of talented players, which I think make them a playoff threat again.
9. Who will be Gwinnett's top offensive player?
Dacula's Rocky Capobianco was the Daily Post's Offensive Player of the Year last season. Rocky did a lot of things for the Falcons, but has graduated. Who will be that guy this year? Norcross' Alvin Kamara, Parkview's Chris Carson and Collins Hill's Brett Sheehan come to mind as possibilities this year.
10. Can Lanier make the leap?
Gwinnett has a knack for young programs making playoff runs. Grayson, Peachtree Ridge, Mill Creek and Archer all reached the playoffs in their third or fourth seasons. Lanier is in its first year of region play and their third year of existence. I think playing in Region 8-AAAA this year gives them a chance for a playoff berth.
Corky Kell Classic kicks off high school season
The Corky Kell Classic is this Saturday at the Georgia Dome. If you can't make it to Atlanta, you can catch the games on TV on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Gwinnett will have teams in four of the five games. Here's a look at those games and some of the top players.
11:45 a.m. — Grayson vs. McEachern
Grayson is the defending state champions and is 4-0 in the Corky Kell. If the game is anything like the previous three years, it will be decided by one score. The Rams have the nation's No. 1 college prospect in Robert Nkemdiche, who is committed to Clemson along with running back Wayne Gallman and cornerback David Kamara. Defensive ends Jack Banda (Arizona) and Zachary Barnes (Tennessee) are also college prospects. McEachern offensive lineman Jajuan Dulaney is committed to Maryland.
2:30 p.m. — North Gwinnett vs. Colquitt County
This is a rematch of last year's second round playoff game, which was won by Colquitt County. The Packers have one of the state's top returning quarterbacks in Cole Segraves, who threw for 2,115 yards last year. Offensive lineman Octavius Jackson is committed to Florida and cornerbacks Johnny Ward (South Florida) and Bobby Hill (Mississippi State) are college prospects.
North has to replace several key pieces on offense, especially at quarterback. The defense features linebacker Jalen Brooks (Maryland) and defensive back Donnie Miles (North Carolina).
5:30 p.m. — Peachtree Ridge vs. Camden County
After a two-year absence, Camden returns to the Corky Kell. The Wildcats are 5-1 in the event with their only loss coming in 2009 to Grayson. Camden went on to win the state title that year. Camden has four players committed to Division I schools led by quarterback Brice Ramsey and cornerback J.J. Green, who are going to UGA. Offensive lineman J.P. Vonashek is committed to South Carolina and linebacker Jarrad Davis is headed to Auburn.
Peachtree Ridge is in the Corky Kell for the third year in a row. The Lions feature receiver Joe Horn, whose father played for the Falcons. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown is the son of the late Orlando Brown, Sr., and has offers from every major program.
8:30 p.m. — Brookwood vs. Walton
Walton is last year's state runner-up. The Raiders return the state's top rusher in Tyren Jones, who is going to Alabama after rushing for 2,375 yards and 38 TDs. Offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow is going to Georgia, quarterback Parker McLeod is committed to Alabama and offensive lineman Jake Boynton is going to Kentucky.
Brookwood has played in the Corky Kell every year since it began in 1992. The Broncos are two years removed from winning the state championship. The team features defensive lineman Shaun McGee, who is going to Georgia. Receiver Kyrin Priester has several major offers and running back Jamaal Cole is one of the state's top running backs.
Football preview comes out Sunday
The Daily Post's annual high school football preview comes out this Sunday.
I didn't realize how popular it was until recently when I got calls, e-mails and Tweets asking when it comes out. I had one coach tell me last year that opposing teams from around the state travel to Gwinnett just to get a copy as well.
The preview is filled with team-by-team coverage of all 22 football playing schools and includes preview story, roster and probable starters.
Top games this season
Just a casual high school football fan? Here's a list of the top games each week to check out.
Dacula at Mill Creek
Still a fairly new rivalry in Gwinnett, this matchup never disappoints with an exciting game. The series is tied 3-3 with Mill Creek winning last year. Some years the game has been decided in the final minutes. The last five meetings have been decided by eight points or less.
Miami Central at Grayson
Two of the nation's top rated teams meet in Gwinnett. Miami Central is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today and Grayson is No. 6. The Rockets were state runner-up and had a running back rush for 2,321 yards and 29 TDs last season. Grayson is the defending state champion in Georgia and has the nation's No. 1 college prospect in Robert Nkemdiche.
Collins Hill at Dacula
These two teams meet again for the first time since 2008-09 seasons. When they last played, Collins Hill won by one in '08 and five in '09. Both teams were playoff teams last year and should contend for postseason spots again.
Norcross at North Gwinnett
Norcross had a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter last year before North came back to win 29-22. The win helped propel North to its third straight region championship. The winner of this game in the region opener has the inside track to the league championship.
Mountain View at Mill Creek
This young matchup became an official rivalry when third-year program Mountain View shocked Mill Creek, a playoff team in 2010, with a 9-7 win last season.
Shiloh at South
South's 10-year winning streak over Snellville rival Shiloh was snapped last year with 28-19 loss to the Generals.
Brookwood at Parkview
Gwinnett's most famous rivalry has been won by Brookwood the last three years and six of the last seven seasons. The Battle of Five Forks had the most exciting finish last year when Nick Tompkins returned a kickoff for a touchdown as time expired. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by seven points or less.
Dacula at Brookwood
After losing six straight meetings to Brookwood, Dacula has had the Broncos' number in recent years. The Falcons have won the last three years. The last five meetings have been decided by two scores or less.
Norcross at Collins Hill
Two Region 7 teams battle for playoff positioning. Norcross has won five of the last six meetings.
South Gwinnett at Grayson
Grayson split from South in 2000 to form this rivalry. Grayson has won five of the last six meetings.
Norcross at Peachtree Ridge
Winner of this game could decide the Region 7 championship. Peachtree Ridge has won four of the last five meetings. Both teams have been consistent playoff teams in recent years.
Wesleyan at GAC
These two Norcross private schools meet for the first time since 2007. GAC has won six of the seven meetings. This game will have major playoff seeding implications.
Brookwood at Grayson
The biggest game in Gwinnett in recent years is on the final week of the regular season. The winner of this game has won the Region 8 championship the last seven years. Last year's game was decided by a pick six in the final seconds for a Grayson win.
Gwinnett County will have three new head coach's this season. Here's a look at the new hires.
Tim Hardy, GAC
Previous job: Head coach at Mountain View
Pros: Hardy has been a head coach before, starting the Mountain View program from scratch in 2009. Hardy has coached against some the state's largest and best teams in the state in recent years. That experience should help at the the Class AA level.
Cons: Hardy replaces Tim Cokely, who returned to Florida to coach. Cokely led the Spartans to a 17-5 record the last two years. Expectations are high at the Norcross private school and it will be tough to continue that success with the departure of several key players, including quarterback Delano Spencer who left the team to focus on basketball.
Final analysis: Hardy is the third head coach in four years for GAC. The Spartans are in a five-team region, so the odds are pretty good they'll make the playoffs.
Doug Giacone, Mountain View
Previous job: Defensive coordinator at Mountain View
Pros: Giacone has has been at Mountain View as an assistant coach, so he's familiar with the players and coaches.
Cons: This is Giacone's first head coaching job and he's in one of the state's toughest regions.
Final analysis: The Bears enter their fourth season and expectations in Gwinnett are high. Mountain View won a pair of region games last year and has a chance to break .500 for the first time this year.
Troy Hobbs, Shiloh
Previous job: Wide receivers coach/special teams coordinator at North Gwinnett
Pros: Hobbs has spent the last six years at North Gwinnett, one of the state's most successful programs.
Cons: This is Hobbs' first head coaching job. He inherits a program that had to forfeit both of its wins for recruiting violations by former head coach Brian Montgomery.
Final analysis: Hobbs is coaching in the same region that has produced the last two state champions. It will be tough to compete with region's top teams, but the Generals have a chance to move up the pecking order with Hobbs at the helm.